So this week we were able to go on some exchanges which were fun and we were able to do some fun service projects as well as we were able to teach a bunch of lessons and meet a lot of people!! It was a grand time. But the best part was that we had a zone conference with Elder Wilford Andersen and his wife. I felt the true inspiration that he brought to our mission and I felt that he had truly searched out to find out what we needed to hear. One of my favorite things that he told us was something like, "Do not soft pedal the truths of the Gospel. You are on solid ground when you teach truth." And for me I know that simple phrase changed my mindset when I teach. I now sense the importance of telling people things as they really are. President Savage says something similar a lot. He says, "We can't do the Lord's work in the Devils way," meaning that we can't coerce people into doing what we want. We cannot use our own charisma to bring to pass salvation in others lives or our own. We cannot begin to bribe or cheat or lie our way through sharing the gospel. The only way that God intends for us to spread His Gospel is by sharing it, but we have to share it plainly without sugarcoating. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is already enough, is it not? In 3 Nephi 27 Christ states a couple times that He has given us His gospel, and I wrote next to that "so go and do!" because I think we over complicate things so often and it makes us look down upon ourselves when that is not necessary. God just wants us to try harder today than yesterday. He wants us to live righteously and do our best. It sounds so easy when we just say it but then we go out and put it to the test and all the sudden we find ourselves over complicating things again. Here is an example from this week. We had an investigator who started going to a food bank to get food and the food bank that he chose is where we do service once a week with the missionaries in the next ward over. And at service last week after we left, the other missionaries talked to our investigator and committed him to go to church and have a lesson with them. Now they had no idea that he was our investigator or that he didn't live in their area so i don't blame them at all. He ended up going to church with them and then having a lesson with them right after church which is when they found out that he was our investigator. The church meetings and lesson went great and now they had a choice to make. The other missionaries could either make it a huge deal and think that they now have to keep teaching him and do a pass-off lesson and whatnot, and maybe even call president and ask him what they should do... or they could simply let us know and then we could just tell Keith (the investigator) that there was a mistake and that we would continue to teach him because we are literally the same church. Now I won't say which one the missionaries did but that is just the only example I could think of without embarrassing myself because I am one of the worst at over complicating things sometimes. I'm not sure how applicable you can make this in your own everyday lives. For all I know I might be the only one who finds myself over complicating things a lot but I'm sure the Holy Ghost can tell you something cool while you read this either way.
I feel like the last few months i have been telling myself week to week that the next week will be less busy with less meetings and I will be able to get out and do more stuff in our area, but i have come to realize that the thought of being less busy next week is indeed false. Something President said about 6 weeks ago has started to ring very true in my mind. He talked about how busy things are getting and how we are starting to ask more of the missionaries which means that we will have to start using our time more efficiently. For example, when the previous normal amount of finding hours in a week was around 40 or so, we will now be down around 20 and we will still be finding the same amount of people because we will rely on the spirit more and put more effort into sharpening our skills so that the spirit can use us better. Now I was not writing this to show you how busy we are, but rather to show you that maybe being busy isn't a bad thing. We simply have to use what little time we do have more wisely and efficiently. I never understood before now the rush that Dad always had when working and getting a job done when the only thing he had to look forward to was another job after that. This mindset that my father has is not something that I could understand until I understood the purpose of this life, Alma 34:32 states, "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." After reading this scripture and pondering it for the last year in the back of my mind I realized that the mindset my Dad has is one of Christlike willingness to work. There have been several times this week where I thought we were going to be way too busy to get everything done that we needed to, but without fail God always made a way as long as we were willing to put in the work that He expected of us. We had our stake conference on sunday and something that President Krumholz (our stake president) said really caught my attention. He asked us if we are only being obedient to be obedient? or if our obedience comes from willingness and a love for God? This made me think a whole lot harder about my own spiritual journey and where I am at. I think that for the most part all of the people I teach are more willing at times to be obedient than I am because this is new to them and they have to truly choose to take this obedience into their hearts, but for me I feel like a lot of the time I am just being obedient because I have been told that it will bring blessings. But after yesterday I believe my desire to be obedient has already changed. I want to be obedient because I love my God. I love this Gospel and what it brings to my life even when life is hard and I know that God is always there. God does not leave us behind. That is the entire reason why He sent his son... John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Please, take your leap of faith and believe on Him!! We have had tons of people lately who have been willing to meet and talk to us but they just don't want to know for themselves. They think our testimonies are great and they love going to their church but they do not care to grow closer to Christ if it feels uncomfortable to take the next step. I would plead with you to not fall into this trap that satan has created of comfort and ease. As my brother David would always say, "This Gospel is a Gospel of transformation," which means that we continually grow closer to Christ. Some of the people that I was talking about are members of our faith but instead of continually growing closer to their Savior they begin to relax and think that they are at a good place to rest for a while. This is the opposite of the mindset that my Dad has. I am convinced that my dad will never stop laboring with his hands and his spirit, even until the day that he dies. I hope to obtain the same mindset as him so that I will never stop growing physically and spiritually just as my dad has never stopped. I am so grateful for the example that I have had from immediate family members as well as so many others that have played a part in my life. If you do not feel that you have an example to look towards then take king Benjamin's invitation from Mosiah 2:41 and look around at those who are keeping the commandments and you will see that they are the happiest and most joyful, and then simply follow their examples even if you are doing it from afar at first. You will notice a change in your life and you will notice a change in the lives of those with whom you associate. God loves you and so do I Love, Elder Cluff
I loved Elder Hollands talk in conference where he states that "our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven- we cannot earn it." This quote has given me much food for thought and as i have thought about it I have started to reflect on gifts that I got as a child. I started to think about how when I wanted a gift from my parents I would oh so sneakily say something like, "Mom, doesn't that bike look really cool?" because then obviously she would now want to have the bike just as badly, and I'll tell you what, it worked almost every time... as long as I had enough money to pay for it. But that's obviously not what the word "gift" means right? So what about the times where I got a true gift from my parents? These things were always very special to me. That is one definition of my own for the word gift. Looking back though, i feel like I kind of earned those gifts. I mean i was a good kid, i did my chores almost half the time and i tried to do the dishes without complaining more than ten times, so didn't I deserve that new set of pajamas on Christmas eve? NO, not at all. Sure I might have tried harder to be good the last 3 days before Christmas but in no way did I really deserve to get more than what my parents were already giving me. God has given us our entire lives and everything that we do in our lives and we think that after all of that, that maybe we deserve a gift, an increase, something more because we are now bored of last years gifts. That is not how this works. Until now I honestly kinda had it in my head that I did deserve those gifts because I was a semi good kid and my parents were my parents. But in reality, I never did deserve more than they already gave me. I probably didn't even deserve that! But everything that my parents gave me was truly out of a profound love that they had for me, and all my Mom and Dad asked me to do was small insignificant tasks that would show and build my love for them. This is all that our Father in heaven asks for as well. He asks that we show our love for Him and His Son by keeping His holy commandments (see john 15:15). God will give us gifts more abundantly the more we serve and love Him but His gifts are still given through His perfect love for us, His children. I hope that i may love and serve God with all my heart, not so that I can earn His gifts, but so that I may become more worthy of them. I love my Father in Heaven and I love Jesus Christ. "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and my friend, is He yours?"
So first off, I am staying in my area with the same companion which hasn't happened since my first area haha so I'm pretty excited! The biggest goal for this next transfer is really getting on top of all the assignments that have been given to us and then on top of that we have been promised that if we work harder and longer than the rest of the zone then we will find so much fruit that we cannot even handle the teaching load. But as for things that have happened this week, we have had a lot of fun with the zone while getting ready for and organizing transfers. For the most part our zone stayed the same and we are super happy with that. We only have one new missionary here this transfer and his trainer is one of the best missionaries. I love being able to see new missionaries and remember the way I felt when I first got here and know that they are feeling very similar. It has been one of the coolest experiences to see how much greater the faith of new missionaries is than even the faith of some who have been out here the longest. These Elders and Sisters have come out on fire and they are just full to the brim with faith filled courage. I hope that I can learn from them rather than dampen their excitement and faith by telling them about the worldly things rather than what Christ can do.
This week we had a lot of time spent doing needed service for the zone like picking up bikes and luggage, moving around cars, getting lost bags where they need to be, getting missionaries to interviews, and many other various activities that took time away from us being out with the people who we need to talk to, and so Elder LaPerle and I made the goal this week to simply be out more and put off the mindset of "well [insert name of Elders] need us to use the truck to move their bikes to another companionship so we better do that now because we are just walking around right now." Because really when we are out even just walking around a park or knocking on doors, there's a better chance that we will fulfill our missionary purpose doing that than driving around.
On Saturday night we had a "Zone Leader Sleepover" at the Savages house and it was a ton of fun but it was also just a super spiritual meeting and we were able to talk about how to uplift the mission. President had us read a few things from the Mission Presidents Handbook which was also really cool because we got to see some of what the first presidency has in mind for us. The coolest part about this weekend though was that we just felt like we were on a spiritual high the entire time. We had that meeting saturday night and then we had magnificent church meetings with great lessons and then we went to the same fireside as last sunday but this sunday it was in the north half of the mission and there were different speakers and what not, and so it was all around just a wonderful weekend filled with the spirit and I know that other people were touched as well through that same converting spirit.
My favorite quote from conference is "look beyond what you see" because I think that is something we have to do often, just like the blind man who Christ healed. He wasn't able to see anything at all but when he looked beyond what he could physically see it was then apparent to him how much faith he had in Christ, and that Christ the son of God could heal him of any physical ailment. I hope to be able to do the same and look beyond my physical weakness to reveal to myself the spiritual strength I have and then to also be able to look beyond others outward appearances so that I may be the means by which they can be blessed by Heavenly Father. Please take a look at your life today and then take a look deeper into your life beyond what you can see and find the blessings that God has given you and the beauty that each and every one of you have in your hearts and in your spirits.
Okay so something really cool that happened just yesterday was the "why I believe" fireside put on by the mission in order to let some recent converts share their testimonies and lift our spirits as well as the spirits of members all over the mission. It was such a spirit filled meeting where the whole mission sang as the choir, 4 recent converts shared their story and testimony, and we also got to hear a few musical numbers from other missionaries and a few words from president savage as well. It was amazing the way music when done with the right spirit can bring such a spirit to the room. The entire mission sang a special arrangement of "this is the Christ" as well as a special arrangement of "we'll bring the world his truth." (not the EFY medley) and during both of these numbers you could sense the testimony and conviction within the voices that sang them (even if it was voices like mine). My favorite was "this is the Christ" because I decided that as we sang i wanted to imagine Christ in the meeting as if we were singing because he had appeared. This enhanced and uplifted my experience while singing and brought to my heart a conviction of the Savior and His love for us.
My Email this week will be short, because I mainly just want to share with you the Love I have for my Savior and how He has changed my life. We often times think that if we grew up in the church then when we meet those that haven't we should automatically jump to our "personal conversion" story that every one of us has. But something I have come to realize is that when people ask if I have grown up in the church I ought to shout for joy and say "YES!! And do you know how good that was for my life?" and then I could continue to tell them of how the gospel and church shaped my life and made me the person I am today. I am so proud and happy to say that I was born in the Church. Christ has been shaping me through the gospel and church since I was a baby, and it has changed my life. My faith in Christ has carried me through anything and everything that has been hard or unwanted in my life. This last week I have had temporary arthritis in my left knee and it doesn't feel too grand when I walk but I am proud to say that Christ has strengthened me enough that I could go out and work every single day just as hard and as long as I would without the arthritis. One day we even played soccer with some kids and i was able to play without pain. I may have had less mobility, but there wasn't pain which was a miracle that day in my life! God is not absent today, and He never will be. There are so many people who think they are without God in their lives and this is not true. God is always there but he can't help us any more than the amount we allow Him. The nice part is that we don't have to do much more than simply reach out in order to allow Him to help us more. I hope we will all continually reach out a little further for God and His helping hand in our lives. I can promise that He is there because I am a witness of His love and mercy, I am a witness of the literal help that Christ can offer and the true friend that Christ can be to us.
Hey there! Well it has been a fun and busy week as always but I feel that there was a lot of fun and a lot of success this week. We were able to go on exchanges with a companionship in the zone and that was tons of fun and we had some meetings which were pretty fun. But its really weird because i think my sense of fun has changed since i've been on my mission, or at least its been added upon I guess would be a better way of putting it because I still enjoy other things just as much. But the reason I say this is because of a certain experience I had this week while on exchanges with Elder Hartwig. We were getting ready to go and swap back to our normal companions when we saw a lady walking on the sidewalk so we stopped and talked to her and she ended up being pretty interested and said that we could come back. But at this point we are running a little late to meet our companions so we start walking a little bit faster to get back to the car. When we were almost to the car we walked past a guy out on the sidewalk smoking by his apartment and I felt that maybe i should stop and talk but then I thought of how late we were so I kept walking. I once again felt the prompting to go back and talk to him.. once again I said we were too late so we hopped in the car and I felt the prompting yet again, so this time I decided with my spirit instead of my head and I drove by him, rolled down my window and stopped... But what am I supposed to say when I'm in the car stopped in front of this guy? I can't use any of my normal phrases in this moment, so I simply relied on the spirit and told this man that God loves him as well as his family. He then walked over to the window, reached out his hand to shake mine and said "thank you for stopping, that means a lot." But unfortunately we had to go so I gave him our number and got his phone number and apartment number and then told him we would be back soon. So what does this have to do with having fun? well I have found (mostly since my mission) that when I am able to act on the promptings of the spirit and simply do things I have already promised to do (like talk to everyone) then I am filled with a sense of joy that is very similar, if not the same, as the feeling I get when I am having tons of fun. The spirit doesn't always give us gentle taps and spiritual nudges. Sometimes he makes us so excited that we cant deny our faith, he makes us so excited that we want to share the gospel and live a righteous life. But in order to feel the spirit this way we have to be willing to "be strict in the plain road" (2 nephi 4:32). I think that verse is something my mother pointed out to me before but I never really gave it much thought until just this last week when I came across it in my own studies. I think its interesting how we always talk about how simple the Gospel is but we fail to see that simpleness is not thoughtlessness or mindlessness. We must grasp the fact that yes all Lehi said to do is hold onto the iron rod, but he said to hold onto it tightly. Don't let go to meet a friend half way, or to impress a group of your peers. You can't let go of your righteous habits for five minutes while you cheat on a test, or lower your standards just for one day while you're on a school trip and your parents aren't there. This is not the time or place to fear God only when He is scaring you. This IS the time though to Love and Honor God even when we can't see Him standing there. This life is hard. We all know that in one way or another, but when Nephi told God that he wanted to be strict in the plain road he also asked God for something in return. He asked God to shut the gates of hell continually before him. I think to an extent we can ask that same thing from God in return for following Him at all times. We promise every sunday to take upon us the name of Christ and always remember Him. Now I think we need to ask ourselves more often if what we are doing is helping us remember Christ. We will not fail and Hell cannot conquer if we are built upon that Rock which is faith in Christ. Now are we too far away from that rock to even use it as a support when the winds and storms come? or are we continually holding fast to that rock and preparing ourselves and others for those storms?
General Conference was amazing. Gathering to hear the words of the Prophets and Apostles is always special, but this time for me was especially cool because although I was able to have personal questions answered, most of the time I was able to have others (most of which I am teaching) in mind and try to find answers for them and what I could share with them. Sad to say, many of the people who I am most concerned about are those who have already seen the light and Joy of Christ and His Gospel but they simply dont care anymore or they dont think they are good enough to keep partaking of that joy. But I think those are exactly the people I needed to have on my mind because they are the ones that so many of the talks were directed to. We received so much guidance on how we shouldnt beat ourselves up but we should simply press forward with faith and continually strive to become a little bit better every single day. God does not expect us to either be perfect or get out. This is not a pass or fail test, this is God telling us that if we strive to be better then we win every single time! This is not the work of perfection, this is the work of salvation. None of us are perfect and we never will be during this life, so our focus should be fully on how to gain favor in the Lords sight each day so that we can return to live with Him one day. And as I stated earlier, all that it takes to gain favor in his sight is to simply strive. We strive to be better, we strive to study the scriptures every single day, we strive to serve others as often as we can, and if we do this then we will soon become so caught up in the simple things of the gospel that we can no longer imagine being where we used to be on our path of righteousness.
During Dallin H. Oaks talk a specific quote kept coming to mind. It is something that Neal A. Maxwell said in his talk "swallowed up in the will of the Father." Here's what he said: "If one minds the things of the flesh, he cannot have the mind of Christ because his thought patterns are far from Jesus, as are the desires or the intents of his heart." Now when he said this he had scripture references with it but i didnt want to type all that up too. But as I was reflecting on this quote I started to wonder how one would come to have the mind of Christ? Or how one would completely forsake minding the things of the flesh? those questions flew around in the back of my mind most of the weekend until I realized that even though that would be amazing to have the mind of Christ and not mind the things of the flesh or the world at all, that is not necessarily what we are meant to have at this time. Once again we are supposed to strive to be better every single day which means our minds will come more in alignment with Christs and we will start to avoid minding the things of the flesh but Christ was the only one who had flawless performance while on this earth and he is the only one who will; but because of that and because He also felt all of the pains and struggles we have He is now able to help us perfectly and support us and teach us and give us divine guidance in accordance with each one of our lives. My point is not that we cant become perfect so dont even try, my point is that we may not be able to become exactly perfect right now so dont get down on yourself. Our goal is to become OUR BEST, and that is what God intends for us to become through that divine guidance from our personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I hope we can all look through general conference again and gain more hope and confidence in ourselves and then go out and fulfill the call to continually push forward. This life is hard for every single one of us. It may be in different ways but it is still hard all the same and this means that we should never look upon ourselves as better OR worse than any other person that we see, meet, or hear about.